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Magnotta: judge rules out blanket publication ban on trial evidence

MONTREAL - The judge overseeing the trial of alleged murderer Luka Rocco Magnotta has denied a defence motion to limit what media can report on the criminal proceedings.

Magnotta's lawyer was seeking a publication ban on the reporting of any evidence presented at his client's murder trial, which begins in September.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Guy Cournoyer denied the motion Monday, ruling there would be no automatic publication ban on all pre-trial motions or a blanket publication ban on evidence at the trial as sought by the defence.

Cournoyer did maintain a publication ban, however, on the reporting of any evidence that is currently being heard or has been heard that could be presented before a jury at the trial.

The motion being presented by Magnotta's lawyer was described as "pretty unusual" by media lawyer Mark Bantey.

"I've never seen a blanket publication ban on the entire contents of a trial," Bantey told reporters outside the courtroom.

"Of course, witnesses, the accused, the Crown can make requests for publication ban on specific elements of evidence — that happens all the time — but I've never seen an accused ask for a publication ban of his entire trial."

Defence lawyer Luc Leclair expressed concerns about his client's ability to obtain a fair trial amid the heavy media coverage of the case.

He also said he is worried about the jury being contaminated by that same media attention.

"In order to ensure that the selected jurors remain firmly focused on the evidence presented in the trial and not influenced by extraneous media report or opinions of reporters, it is important the media not report on the evidence heard," Leclair wrote in the motion, which had been under a publication ban before the judge ruled otherwise.

The motion was challenged by various media, including The Canadian Press.

Magnotta is charged with first-degree murder in the death of student Jun Lin in May 2012.

He is also accused of committing an indignity to a body; publishing obscene material; criminally harassing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other members of Parliament; and mailing obscene and indecent material.

He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The motion is one of several being presented this week in the lead-up to the highly anticipated trial.

The motions that have not been heard are all subject to a publication ban until Cournoyer rules on each individually.

Magnotta, sporting short cropped hair and wearing a white T-shirt, was in court Monday listening to the arguments.

The trial is set to begin on Sept. 8.

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